There’s good news if you like donuts (or doughnuts)! Today is National Donut Day—a good excuse to indulge. Even better, some shops traditionally give out free donuts today to celebrate the event.
Surprisingly, a company with the words Dunkin or Krispy in their names did not invent this holiday. It was created in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers on the front lines in Europe during World War I. (Fun, but slightly gross, fact: The donuts were often cooked in oil inside the soldiers’ helmets.) While the holiday began as a fund-raiser in Chicago to help those in need during the Great Depression, the tradition of celebrating this delicious dessert continues.
For those of you who want to skip the sugar and calories, but still observe the holiday, here are some great books in which donuts figure prominently. Whether the donuts represent the bond between characters, the pride of a town honoring its founder, or a sought after breakfast treat, they’re a sweet addition to any story.
Read on to find out about these fabulous books and to see how you could win an autographed copy of Lily and Dunkin and a ten dollar gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts.
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
In this poignant novel that tackles transgender and bipolar issues, Norbert Dorfman, who hates his name and loves donuts, is nicknamed Dunkin by his new friend Lily Jo McGrother, who was born Timothy McGrother. Early in the novel, a heartfelt passage shows readers the importance of donuts in Dunkin’s difficult life: “I wish Dad were here. He loves Boston Kreme donuts, too. I doubt they have donuts where he is. When Dad was in a good mood, he could chow down half a dozen donuts in one sitting. Sometimes a whole dozen, except for the couple Mom and I would eat. And Dad wouldn’t even get big from eating all those donuts, except that one time when they changed his meds and he ballooned like the Goodyear Blimp.” In a starred review, Booklist called the novel a “sensitively written work of character-driven fiction that dramatically addresses two important subjects that deserve more widespread attention.”
The Center of Everything by Linda Urban
Soon-to-be-twelve-year-old Ruby Pepperdine is trying to make things right in her life since her beloved grandmother passed away. The story is set in a town founded by a fictional character, Captain Bunning, who invented the donut in 1847. (In a note from the author, Urban tells how she made up the story after reading about Captain Hanson Gregory’s invention of the donut. See The Hole Story of the Donut below for more about Captain Hanson.) Ruby hopes her problems can be solved by a town tradition that involves making a wish on your birthday and tossing a quarter through a hole in a bronze donut held by the statue of Captain Bunning. While donuts play an important role in the plot, according to one reviewer, donuts also figure into the structure of the story. Meg Wolitzer writes that the novel “travels a satisfying, circular path that deliberately echoes the shape of a donut …” The novel earned several starred reviews and has been praised for its depiction of family, friends, and community.
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
In this novel about Albie, an only child who struggles with learning difficulties, donuts represent an important bond between Albie and his babysitter, Calista. Not only does she let Albie use his allowance to buy donuts each day, she also helps Albie forget about the bullies in his life by drawing The Adventures of Donut Boy and Art Girl, a comic based on Albie’s love for donuts and Calista’s love for art. Albie soon learns to take pride in the things he does best, and Calista learns a bit from Albie, too. In a starred review, Booklist called the book “a heartfelt portrait of a child searching for nothing more than a safe place to thrive.”
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Originally published in nineteen forty-three, this classic tells about Homer Price, who lives in a small town in Ohio called Centerburg. It’s a place where you can win a hundred dollars by eating all the donuts you want; where houses are built in a day; and where Homer can foil four bandits using nothing but his wits and his pet skunk. In one story, Homer’s tendencies to get involved in outrageous incidents find him tending to an out-of-control donut-making machine in his uncle’s diner. Generations of reviewers have praised the humor in these stories.
Danny’s Doodles: The Squirting Donuts by David Adler
Something has gone wrong in Danny and Calvin’s fourth-grade classroom. Mrs. Cakel has transformed from a rampant rule-enforcer to a quiet excuse-accepter. Has she been replaced with an alien? Has she undergone a top-secret personality makeover? Danny and Calvin decide there’s only one way to find out what’s really going on: spy. But spying soon leads to a greater mystery filled with dog chasing, jelly-injected donuts, prune butter-included experiments, riddle mania, and more! Booklist wrote that “the book artfully portrays a dynamic friendship between seeming opposites that points to ways of making better choices without losing the fun.”
Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts by Tom Watson
It’s morning, and the dogs are hungry. So Stick Dog and his team of strays are off on another outrageous canine caper—this time to take the donuts. To snatch some breakfast treats for his hungry pals, Stick Dog will need to stop a moving truck, outfox a man on a telephone pole, and calm down a very caffeinated Karen. But that’s not all. He’ll also need to manage the greatest confrontation in history when his good friend Poo-Poo comes face-to-face with the ultimate enemy—a squirrel.
The Hole Story of the Donut by Pat Miller, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Who knew the donut was invented by a New England mariner? Turns out in 1847 the inventor, Hanson Crockett Gregory, worked as a ship’s cook. But hungry sailors complained that his breakfast of sugary fried dough balls had greasy, raw centers. That’s when Gregory got the idea to cut holes out of the center and fry the dough like that. The rest, of course, is pastry history.
To celebrate Donut Day, Donna Gephart has generously donated an autographed copy of Lily and Dunkin, and I’m offering a ten-dollar gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts. For a chance to win one of these prizes, tell us in the comment section about a kids’ book that features donuts or just tell us about your favorite donut before midnight Sunday, June 5. I’ll pick two winners at random and announce who they are on Tuesday, June 7. (Continental U.S. only, please.)
Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day ( June 2016, S&S/Aladdin) is available for preorder. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/